Monday, 19 January 2015

The 2015 Nations Cup

The 2015 Nations Cup
The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations started over  the weekend precisely on January 17 and will come to an end on February 8, 2015 in Equatorial Guinea who came in as last minute host following the withdrawal of Morocco over concerns on the Ebola scourge on the continent.

The competition is Africa’s biggest football fiesta that has seen virtually all the big players on the continent feature including Abedi Pele, George Weah, Nwankwo Kanu, Patrick Mboma, Mustapha Hadji, Austin Okocha, Rashidi Yekini, Victor Ikpeba, Kalusha Bwalya, Emmanuel Ameneke, Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Toure just to mention a few go on to win the prestigious Africa Footballer of the Year Award in several editions.

It is a competition where the best players on the continent raise the stakes in showcasing their exceptional skills  in making Africa become the focus of attention for the European scouts  as the emerging new football horns abounds in the continent.

The year 2015 edition is the 30th edition which would be held across four venues of Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebyin. Malabo and Bata were also host venues in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with sixteen teams featuring in the competition.

Nigeria the defending champions for the second time will not be defending their title she won  in South Africa after the Stephen Keshi tutored side failed to make any meaningful impact towards the defence of their title losing steam when it mattered most in the last group match against group winner South Africa at the AkwaIbom International Stadium and dashing the hopes of millions of her teeming supporters globally.

The story of the Nigerian team , Keshi , the influence of the powers that be on our football and the NFF is a sad tale that will always be in its present comatose unless the football body rises to take the bull by the horn. I do not wish to spoil our appetite by focusing on the Super Eagles as we enjoy the coverage of the Nations Cup in the comfort of our various homes. Let’s not take anything away from the competition.

The qualified teams for this edition include South Africa, Equatorial Guinea (host), Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Zambia, Algeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Congo and DR Congo.

The West Africans have five teams featuring in the tournament and have consistently over the years shown consistency in the highest number of teams from a region at the tournament but this edition promises to spring more surprises with the emergence of South Africa, Algeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and even Cape Verde all strong contenders for the title.

For the first time in a long while in the history of the Nations Cup, the Ivorians will not be pre-tournament favourites as they enter the competition without their legendary talisman, Didier Drogba. The Elephants have been the most hyped team on the continent with an array of stars that has dominated the African midfield but have failed to deliver when it mattered most and their quarter final exit to Nigeria two years ago in South Africa ended a dream of  a generation of galaxy of stars that failed and dashed the hopes of a football crazy nation.

The pressure will fall on the current African footballer of the year, Yaya Toure who plies his trade with Manchester City to lead the team to a second title as the team is being handled by  Herve Renard who knows what it takes to win the competition having won it with Zambia in 2012 beating Cote d’Ivoire in the final.

The Bafana Bafana of South Africa are no longer the boys of past decades on the continent as they have come off age under the tutelage of Coach Ephraim ‘’ Shakes’’ Mashaba who has turned around this side to quality team that may hold the continent for awhile.

The dominance of the team in the qualifiers including denying the Super Eagles of Nigeria qualification should send the alarm signals to other teams that the South African are likely to make it to the finals.

The team remains very tactical with a bunch of very young players whose rebuilding process has been  a tremendous success in changing the fortunes of the present squad which is also buoyed with a very strong domestic league.
The team won the cup in 1996 in the presence of the legendary hero and former President, Nelson Mandela in the absence of Nigeria who pulled out as defending champions due to the international pressure and sanctions against the military rule in the country as at that time. History may remain positive once again to the south African side  as they remain the best team coming into this competition.

The Desert Warriors of Algeria play an exciting brand of football and the rebuilding process of this young side continues to usher more dividends over the years with the sterling qualities it offers including having the BBC African footballer of the year in the team.

Among all Africa’s five representatives at the World Cup last summer, the Algerian senior national team was the only African side that gave the best outing stretching eventual champions Germany to extra time.

The team won its first five games in qualifying for the Nations Cup to send a strong signal on the continent. The team sustains a fast attacking pace around the skilful Yacine Brahimi, Sofiane Feghouil and Islam Silmani as they have been grouped in the strongest fixtures at the tournament with Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.

The indomitable Lions of Cameroon are four times African Champions and come into this competition with a rich pedigree of history. Unfortunately, the team has not been at its best in recent years and would be without their leading striker Samuel Eto’O who retired from international football. They stand an outside chance of winning the competition.
The Tunisians are the second North African side in the competition but have recently been overshadowed by the emerging influence and dominance of their neighbours , the Algerians. They had a good run in the qualifiers beating Senegal and Egypt and have improved on the continent’s ranking recently as they go head to head with Zambia, Cape Verde and Congo at this tournament. They are very good and could hit the semi finals.

If there is one country the focus of the continent would be on at the Nations Cup for another stellar performance, it would surely be Cape Verde.

This team has shown lots of promise to become the emerging kings in the future of African football as they have remained consistent since 2013 when they made their inaugural appearance in the competition.

They qualified in style for this competition being the first team to qualify and are ranked above Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa. They play a very fast paced game that continues to attract very rave reviews and the Chelsea Coach, Jose Mourinho has consistent declared his love and support for the team describing them as the future of African football in a country of less than 500,000 people.

The other teams from West Africa including Burkina Faso and Mali have been consistent in the competition reaching the final and semi final respectively and are expected to give some quality showing likewise Guinea who look set to make history and the outsiders like Congo and DR Congo who are set to make a bold statement on the future of African football in the next three weeks.

Like I earlier stated, watching this fiesta promises to be exciting especially the absence of the Super Eagles which would have brought some very painful memories for the county’s teeming supporters and we hope that the NFF and the team’s technical crew will watch with keen interests the dynamics in the game and the need to do away with Keshi before it is too late.

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